July 14, 2014

Family Reunion


"If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother (family members, friend, associate, neighbor) has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24).

This verse came to mind this morning as I was mulling over the lives of two brothers. I've seen a lot of bitter resentment build up over the years between the brothers and their wives because the oldest of the two sweeps his feelings under the rug and says he is keeping the peace. He refuses to seek true reconcilation between them. When they share the same space, I feel tension and hear the rivalry get rehashed each time they are together. It's like a private Hatfield and McCoy feud. How can love flow and gratefulness take place when the poison of false forgiveness crowd it out? And then to top it off, their festering anger against each other is being taught to the next generation. Perhaps not consciously, but nevertheless it is still being passed down to their descendants. Until recently, I didn't understand what the verse meant about the sins of the fathers until I put two and two together "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." (Exodus 34:6-7).
So I believe that this is saying that the two brothers are not only responsible for not letting their personal quarrel between them get out of hand, but like ripples in a pond, they should have made sure it didn't spoil their descendants' lives. Well, that's so much water under the bridge now, however.
I was reminded of the verse in my life chapter of Ephesians when reading a Christian book recently. It read: "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. And do not give the devil a foothold." (Ephesians 4:26-27). I wrestled with this one awhile because at the moment I read this chapter I was nursing anger towards my husband and I didn't want to forgive him. I was right and he was unwilling to admit I was right. The writer said you will get angry from time to time and the emotion of anger is not a sin. He said that even Jesus got angry at the sellers in the temple. "Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 'It is written,' he said to them, 'My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.'" (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:27-33). Jesus, the only perfect human being ever in existence, was not sinning in his righteous anger because he was zealous for his Father and his holy temple. He recognized that the moneychangers and the noisy animal sacrifice hawkers were short-changing the people who had come to worship. Many things such as greed and irritating noise were blocking the people's joyful prayer-time and grateful adoration of their heavenly Father.

He said when you become angry, you will come to a fork in the road and you will make a decision towards the right or to the left. You can turn to  righteousness and make peace with the person you are angry with before the day is over or you can turn away from God (which is sin) and nurse pride and resentment, which might even lead to depression, in your heart. The writer of this book said it is much better to get right with the other person before the sun goes down and continue to talk it out even if it takes all night then to have a festering wound between you. He said otherwise you have carried the burden of bitterness all night long, making it harder and harder to let go of it each day and night that passes until it becomes a malignant ball and chain wrapped around your heart. He said it is much better to confess your part in it, apologize, shake hands, forgive, and return to love again. Only then can you know real peace.
 
"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children. . . always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 4:31-5:1, 20).

I pray to see the miracle of thawing pride and forgiving love come to the brothers before they pass on. And I would enjoy seeing the cleansing of all the hearts involved and a strong loyal bond knit between the two families.

Thank you Lord for the lessons you teach us. Help us learn from them. And if there is any sin in me, show me where I might be hiding it so I can rip it out and hand it over to you. Mend me, wash me and make me whiter than snow.
 
"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." (Isaiah 1:18).

So if you find you are having a hard time being grateful, perhaps something is blocking your way. Are you hiding sin in your heart? If so, I recommend getting right with with your brother and with the Savior. He is merciful and gracious.
 
"He himself bore our sins on his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness." (1 Peter 2:24).

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"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe." (Hebrews 12:28).